Posts tagged ‘Berlin’

Monday, June 24, 2013

Freedom of Opinion on Workdays

In Zhu Hong‘s (lost) case against Deutsche Welle, there are two factors that may matter most. One would be the difference between conviction or Weltanschauung on the one hand, and differences in opinion on the other. As I understand it, communism, atheism etc. would be Weltanschauungen. Someone employed by a church or a church institution may get fired when he or she declares to be atheist, and that may be legal, as churches are Tendenzbetriebe. Media and publishers, too, are Tendenzbetriebe. However, mere differences of opinion won’t lead to getting sacked that easily, at least not in theory, and employers who give it a try anyway may have a hard time in the labor courts.

The other factor to be reckoned with in Ms Zhu’s case would be her weak position as a quasi-employee (arbeitnehmeränlich beschäftigt). Neither of the four editors at the Chinese department [addition: who lost their jobs or contracts in 2010/11] had a permanent contract. At least one of them, however, was fully employed, but as a temporary employee, not as a permanent employee.

The member of the DW employee committee who basically confirmed the content of the [addition: open letter by] former Chinese-department staff published by Neue Rheinische Zeitung in 2011, was – my interpretation – no temporary employee, let alone only a quasi-employee. He was in a position to differ. Zhu Hong wasn’t.

I was made aware of the two (possible) factors, mentioned in the first paragraph here,  in the commenter thread on my German-language blog, over the weekend. This discussion changed my perception in some ways – the commenter is apparently a lawyer, and was quite prepared to share his views – he noted, however, that it was too early to arrive at final conclusions, as the federal labor court hasn’t published its written opinion yet. The federal labor court argued that Ms Zhu had not been fired for a Weltanschauung. She was no communist. However, if Deutsche Welle wanted more  journalistic distance between itself and the government in Beijing (and the court didn’t try to judge if this was so), even that would be sufficient legal justification to end cooperation with Ms Zhu.

The commenter himself didn’t see the major issue in the concept of Tendenzbetriebe. A labor court case, he wrote, was similar to civil suits in that only the material and arguments brought forward in the proceedings right in court were considered by the judges. That made these proceedings different from administrative courts that may frequently carry out investigations on their own, to get a comprehensive picture.

For an employee with no permanent contract, it won’t be easy to find a point against the (former) employer that would lead a court’s objection to the dismissal of a quasi-employee like Ms Zhu. This is the status of many journalists in Germany. It is a status that makes it easier for papers or other media to fire staff who work on non-permanent contracts, once the deadline is reached, be it for differences or disputes, be it for economic reasons (downsizing). And this, in turn, may lead – an obvious conclusion, in my view -, to a large number of editorial or reporting staff who are afraid of conflicts, with – obvious, I think – drawbacks for freedom of opinion.

In an article not related to the Chinese department in particular, Michael Hirschler of the labor union Deutscher Journalistenverband wrote (undated, but apparently posted early in 2011) that when downsizing is the reason for dismissals, Deutsche Welle has frequently succeeded in getting rid of quasi-employees. The same was true for many other German broadcasters. Hirschler’s advice for freelancers, including quasi-employees, was to join one of the unions – Deutscher Journalistenverband or verdi – to get entitled to the benefits of legal counsel.

Certainly, politicans needed to do their share, too, to keep Deutsche Welle going, wrote Hirschler. In the world of international broadcasting, Deutsche Welle wouldn’t be competitive without sufficient funding. Both freelancers at Deutsche Welle, and permanent employees, should address politicians to this end.

But the next problem may be right there. German federal parliament itself, a place for many lofty speeches condemning questionable avoidance strategies of permanent employment contracts, employed de-facto permanent employees as seemingly self-employed (scheinselbständig), Süddeutsche Zeitung reported earlier this month.

Freedom of opinion and social justice are great topics for Sunday speeches. But they may be very different stories from Monday through Saturday.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Press Review: Li Keqiang in Germany, and the only Disharmony

Xinhua, via Enorth (Tianjin), May 27, 2013 —

Chief state concillor Li Keqiang met with German president Gauck on Sunday.

国务院总理李克强26日在柏林会见德国总统高克。

Li Keqiang conveyed the cordial greetings and best wishes from chairman Xi Jinping. Li Keqiang said that current Sino-German relations were continuously reaching new developments on a high level, with both countries facing rare opportunities. With Merkel, we have deepened the Sino-German strategic partnership, and we held talks about strengthening cooperation in all kinds of fields. The two sides have issued a press communiqué, clearly stating the key areas and the direction of cooperation for our two countries. China is looking forward to strengthen dialog and exchange with Germany on the principles of respect and equal treatment, to enhancing understanding and mutual trust, to jointly cope with challenges.

李克强转达了习近平主席的亲切问候和良好祝愿。李克强说,当前中德关系在高水平上不断取得新发展,两国合作面临难得机遇。我同默克尔总理就深化中德战略伙 伴关系、加强各领域合作举行了很好的会谈,双方发表联合新闻公报,明确两国重点领域合作方向。中方愿本着相互尊重、平等相待的原则,同德方加强对话交流, 增进了解和互信,共同应对挑战。

Discussing China’s development and domestic situation, Li Keqiang said that all along during the past thirty years, China had moved forward, and the economy had achieved huge successes. Construction of a democratic legal system and the cause of human rights had constantly progressed. As a big developing country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, China’s path towards modernization was still long. We are acting from our own country’s national situation [国情, guóqíng, also translated as national characteristics or national circumstances sometimes], adhere to the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and at the same time, we want to draw on the civilizational achievements and experiences to achieve comprehensive development even better.

在谈到中国的发展和国内情况时,李克强表示,中国过去30多年一直在改革开放中不停顿地前行,经济社会发展取得巨大成就,民主法制建设和人权事业不断进步。中国作为一个拥有13亿人口的发展中大国,要实现现代化还有很长的路要走。我们从本国国情出发,将坚持走中国特色社会主义道路,同时愿借鉴人类社会的文明成果和有关发展经验,更好实现全面发展。

Gauck welcomed Li Keqiang to Germany and asked him to convey his cordial greetings to Xi Jinping. Gauck said that Germany and China both had a long history and magnificent cultures, and relations between the two countries had developed fine in recent years. Germany admires the achievements of China’s economic and social development and wants to strengthen cooperation and dialog with China in politics, economics, the humanities and other fields, and to promote further development in the relations of the two countries.

高克欢迎李克强访德,并请转达对习近平主席的亲切问候。高克说,德中都拥有悠久历史和灿烂文化,两国关系近年发展良好。德国钦佩中国经济社会发展取得的成就,愿同中方加强政治、经济、人文等领域的合作与对话,推动两国关系取得新发展。

Li also met with Brandenburg’s minister-president Matthias Platzeck in the regional capital Potsdam, next to Berlin. In Potsdam,visiting Cecilienhof Castle there,

Rheinische Post (RP) onkine, May 26, 2013 —

Li Keqiang re-emphaszized his country’s claim on an uninhabited group of islands in the East China Sea. Japan had to hand the territories back to China. “This was a hard-earned fruit of victory”, Li said, pointing to international post-war agreements. The islands, contested between the two countries, had once been stolen from China by Japan.

Li Keqiang bekräftigte in Potsdam den Anspruch seines Landes auf eine unbewohnte Inselgruppe im Ostchinesischen Meer. Japan müsse die Territorien an China zurückgeben. “Das war die Frucht des Sieges, der hart erkämpft wurde”, sagte Li unter Verweis auf internationale Abkommen der Nachkriegszeit. Die zwischen beiden Ländern seit langem umstrittenen Inseln seien China einst von Japan gestohlen worden.

Märkische Allgemeine, May 26, 2013 —

In front of the castle [Cecilienhof], some flurry arose when two Tibet activists wanted to register a spontaneous demonstration. Security forces stopped the protest “along the route of protocol”, as a police spokesman told the MAZ [Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung].

Vor dem Schloss kam kurz Unruhe auf, als zwei Tibet-Aktivisten eine spontane Demonstration anmelden wollten. Sicherheitskräfte unterbanden jedoch den Protest “entlang der Protokollstrecke”, wie ein Polizeisprecher gegenüber der MAZ sagte.

Platzeck, whose heart beats for Dortmund, revealed that the Chinese guest was a soccer fan and that they had talked about the game [between Borussia and Bayern], too. It had turned out that Keqiang had more been in favor of Bayern Munich. That, however, had been the only disharmony between the two politicians, Platzeck assured.

Platzeck, dessen Herz für Dortmund schlug, verriet, dass der chinesische Gast ein Fußball-Fan sei und man auch über das Spiel am Vorabend gesprochen habe. Dabei stellte sich heraus, dass Keqiang eher für den FC Bayern gehalten habe. Dies, so versicherte Platzeck, sei aber die einzige Disharmonie zwischen den beiden Politikern gewesen.

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Related

» Merkel vows, Bloomberg, May 27, 2013
» Industriousness and Wisdom, Jan 9, 2011
» Full of Vitality and Vigor, July 16, 2010

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Germany’s Slow-Motion China Debate

When Mao Zedong died and Hua Guofeng succeeded him, there was much more China coverage on the German media than now – from what I can remember. I was ten years old at the time, but have never forgotten how the newsreaders pronounced the new helmsman’s name: Hu-ah Ku-oh Fang. The muscles in their faces were working hard during the two or three seconds it took to read his name out. The rather intense coverage probably lasted until 1979 at least.

China came back, bigtime, in Germany’s news coverage during 2008 (and, I’m sure, in 1989, too, but I hardly remember that time in the news). By that time, China was no longer a faraway country, with a few blurred television pictures “received in Hong Kong”, but more like news from an uncannily close neighbor.

Meantime, to use a cuisinary term, the clash with China – or the CCP – keeps simmering over low heat in the German press. On March 10 – twenty days ago -, a radio essay by Sabine Pamperrien, the source of many or most of the coverage on the Zhang Danhong affair at Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle  in 2008, was aired by Deutschlandfunk, one of Germany’s two nationwide radio broadcasters. She criticized the views of former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt on non-interference, arguing that in terms of international law, Schmidt’s opinion was a minority opinion, even if Schmidt argued as if his opinion was apodictic. Non-interference wasn’t codified, but derived from customary international law – just as human rights widely were. Pamperrien argues that the “international responsibility to protect (R2P) had been drafted, more than ten years ago, to define the concept of sovereignty within the UN Charter anew. This wasn’t codified either, but was becoming more and more customary:

Deshalb wurde vor über zehn Jahren mit dem Begriff der “internationalen Schutzverantwortung” eine Neudefinition des Souveränitätsbegriffs der Charta der Vereinten Nationen entworfen. Danach sind Menschenrechte nicht innere Angelegenheiten von Staaten, sondern supranationales Recht. Auch das ist nicht kodifiziert, setzt sich gewohnheitsrechtlich aber immer mehr durch.

It should not be forgotten, Pamperrien adds, that non-interference had been the central defense club (Abwehrkeule) of communist potentates during the Entspannungspolitik (détente), whenever dissidents in their countries – or expelled by their governments – became a topic.

Coincidentally or not, Wolf Biermann, a former East German citizen, expelled by the East German government in 1976, wrote an open letter to Liao Yiwu (published on March 27). Biermann expressed anger about Helmut Schmidt (in his capacity as the co-editor of German weekly Die Zeit, which had been speading stinking news lately. Stinking news, that is, about Liao Yiwu.

For sure, German sinologist Wolfgang Kubin had alluded to the topic of Liao Yiwu, and to a chance that Liao’s descriptions might require verification. Friends who had visited Liao in prison had told him (Kubin) that the conditions of Liao’s imprisonment hadn’t been as harsh as he [later] described them, that much what he couldn’t publish here  [in China, apparently] wasn’t documentation, but fiction, and that the case deserved closer investigation (“Der Fall lohnte einer genaueren Untersuchung”).

But that was in October 2012, and Biermann doesn’t state explicitly which comments about Liao Yiwu in Die Zeit caused his anger – Kubin’s, or anyone else’s. In another article, nine days ago, Die Zeit stated that Kubin hadn’t been able to prove his accusation against Liao.

I wrote an article on Biermann’s and Pamperrien’s criticism on “my” German blog – on a platform provided by German weekly Der Freitag – on Wednesday, with a reference to the Zhang Danhong affair and the events that unfolded at Deutsche Welle, It dawned on me that I hadn’t asked myself too many questions about all those events for a long time, and that I hadn’t asked any stakeholders questions for a long time. The thread that followed my post on my German blog was actually instructive – it has given me several ideas on how to do some more research. That may require time, once again, and will inevitably reduce my blogging frequency further – at least for a while.

The funny bit about that is that I’m under no time pressure. No big newsagency, no big paper, no broadcaster is likely to pick up the Deutsche-Welle issues any time soon. But as time passes, more and more information is trickling down – not least from Li Qi‘s Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare. The book remained available – as far as I can see, no judicial steps have been taken against the publishing house, and apparently, no counterstatements have been made.

The anti-CCP mill, too, is grinding its way rather slowly. Biermann’s reaction to the coverage of Die Zeit seems to suggest that, and so does Pamperrien’s: Helmut Schmidt had made his remarks about non-interference and other issues more than one years earlier, on January 31, 2012.

Back then, Tai De took issue with Schmidt’s remarks about the Korean War.

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Related

» Deutsche Welle Link Collection, Febr 3, 2012
» Xu Pei and the Dirty Old Men, May 17, 2010

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Press Review: Kim’s Sugarcubes, and the “Battle of Opinion”

The actions of the North Korean regime are not incalculable, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s (Munich) Reymer Klüver, the paper’s U.S. correspondent until summer last year, and now with the foreign-politics department at Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Kim clan’s provocations were actually quite calculable in its provocations which served only one goal: to show the world and its own people its power. The regime in North Korea doesn’t act incalculably. It acts irresponsibly.

The message is aimed at the Obama administration, believes Klüver, as the test was conducted on the day when the American president delivered the agenda for his second term in office, and at South Korean president-elect Park Geun Hye is about to take office. The reactions, too, were calculable: the US would demand stronger sanctions, China would agree after some hesitation, and basically, the response wouldn’t be different from the one to the previous nuclear test. Even if a bomb of the same explosive power as the previous one was indeed smaller than before, and therefore more suitable to be fitted to a nuclear missile, North Korea remained far from being a threat to America.

What makes the test dangerous all the same would be that Kim might gamble away, and that his provocations could spin out of control. A conflict on the South Korean border could lead to just that kind of scenario. Even worse, non-proliferation might be used to earn some badly needed foreign exchange. There was speculation about North Korean cooperation with Iran on its third test. What would keep a gambler like the dictator in Pyongyang to sell Iran or others his knowledge and even material?

China could influence North Korea, if it wanted to, writes Klüver, but it didn’t want to use it. 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports depended on China. But China’s calculations could be shifting, Klüver adds: a Peking government paper had mentioned a “high price” that North Korea would have to pay in case of a nuclear test. The Chinese, Klüver recaps, needed to take responsibility for their irresponsible neighbor.

Der Spiegel (Hamburg) chooses the tabloid approach, as far as its choice  of stock photo material is concerned. Underneath a video link photo (from Reuters) that shows Kim Jong-un in flames, the headline is North Korean nuclear power messes with America (Atommacht Nordkorea legt sich mit Amerika an). Der Spiegel’s Andreas Lorenz points out that this could start an arms race, with the US, Japan and North Korea beefing up their missile defense. Xi Jinping acted hardly differently from his predecessor Hu Jintao, Lorenz notes, as he criticizes Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, but also trying to soften international sanctions. North Korea is an important supplier of commodities to China. And the encapsulated country serves China’s military as a strategic buffer zone between China and the other East Asian states and the US.

Lorenz also quotes the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times” as suggesting that there was no need for China to placate angry feelings about its role. And Lorenz quotes US expert Siegfried Hecker with concerns that North Korea could sell its atomic-bomb know-how, to Iran, for example.

Die Welt (Berlin) suggests that Kim had thrown the Chinese sugar cubes (i. e. sweetened the third test).

Namely, the third test was preceded by several sessions of North Korean security panels on which Kim ostensibly emphasized the leadership role of his Communist Party. For the first time in the regime’s history, these sessions were made public, writes die Welt’s Torsten Krauel. Kim thus signaled that the third test was controled by the civilian leadership and not, as it had been previously, as an – intransparent to the outside world – decision between an ailing dictator and an incalculable army. (Dem dritten Test gingen nämlich mehrere Sitzungen nordkoreanischer Sicherheitsgremien voraus, auf denen Kim demonstrativ die Führungsrolle seiner Kommunistischen Partei hervorhob. Diese Sitzungen wurden erstmals in der Geschichte des Regimes publik gemacht. Kim Jong-un signalisierte damit, dass der dritte Atomtest unter der Steuerung und Kontrolle der zivilen Führung stattfand und nicht, wie beide Male zuvor, in einer nach außen unklaren Entscheidung zwischen einem kränklichen Diktator und einer unberechenbaren Armee.)

Therefore, Xi Jinping and (theoretically) Barack Obama, too, now had a a definite contact person, believes Krauel.

Alleged North-Korean cooperation with Iran has long been a leitmotif in Die Welt’s coverage, but while more moderate papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung are discussing these allegations too, this week, Die Welt goes one step further and discusses how America could conduct a war on North Korea. However, Krauel concludes that different from Iraq during the years after the Kuwait war, the United Nations weren’t in a state of war with North Korea.

Therefore, it seems to be inevitable to talk with each other in East Asia again, even with a dictator like Kim Jong-un – as unpromising and depressing this prospect may currently look. (Wahrscheinlich führt deshalb tatsächlich kein Weg daran vorbei, in Ostasien wieder miteinander zu reden, sogar mit einem Diktator wie Kim Jong-un – so aussichtslos und bedrückend diese Aussicht derzeit auch erscheinen mag.)

The German mainstream press in general has become much more supportive of militarization of politics than in the past. That is my rough observation, and not backed by statistics. But apparently for the first time, research has been published about how leading German press people – mentioned by name – are interlinked with think tanks, national and international forums, foundations, policy planning groups, etc.. And a presentation of this research also clearly quotes leading press commentators with statements like

Politics must not shun the battle of opinion on the home front if they are convinced of what they purport. [...] The battle for the “hearts and minds” must be conducted among at home, too. (Der Meinungskampf an der Heimatfront darf die Politik nicht scheuen, wenn sie von dem überzeugt ist, was sie vorgibt. [...] Der Kampf um die “hearts and minds” muss auch bei uns geführt werden.)

A newsman’s words, to be clear.

This should not lead to overreaching conclusions. The research does not suggest that everyone is in the boat of an extended security concept (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff, including energy and financial-industry issues). But among four leading journalists of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt, definitions of security and threat catalogs had been uncritically adopted (unkritisch übernommen).

There are papers with editorial managers not known for relevant networks – the left leaning Tageszeitung (taz) and Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Some of their articles correspond with views among the elite, some sharply criticize the extended security concept, according to the report.

Here is another observation that disturbs me: My choice of press-review sources – Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Die Welt further above in this blogpost was spontaneous. My information sources of choice when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear test were just these papers. No taz, no Frankfurter Rundschau. However, there’s an excuse:

I thought the Rundschau was no longer online, as they filed for bankruptcy on November 12, 2012.

But in fact, they are still here.

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Related

» Questions Raised, November 10, 2012

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another “Media Scandal”: Anti-CNN crops Li Qi’s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”

The following is an article published by April Media (四月网) in October this year, a review of Li Qi‘s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” (China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle). Anti-CNN was turned into April Media in 2009.

Links within blockquote added during translation; I added my remarks about the review underneath.

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April Media’s Book Review

2008 was a memorable year. It was a year of a global uproar because of China, and it was a year where, for the first time, Chinese people became collectively excited. The uproar began with the Tibet incident in March that year, with the excitement going against Western media reporting and the way it had created an uproar for no reason. In the West, people took to the streets to protest against China’s “repression” of Tibetans, obstructing the torch ralleye to the Olympic Games which were for the first time held in Beijing. All over the world, Chinese people without an interest in politics also loudly expressed their anger at the West’s one-sided, distorted coverage.

2008是一个令人难忘的年头。那是一个世界因为中国而沸腾的年头,那是一个全世界华人首次全体激动起来的年头。那个沸腾始于是年三月的西藏事件;那个激动始于对西方报导及其引发的西方“无端”沸腾的不满。在西方,人们走上街头抗议中国“镇压”藏族人,阻挠首次在中国举办的奥运会的火炬之行。在世界上,从不关心政治的华人也站起来大声地表达对西方的片面、扭曲的报导的愤怒。

“The Voice of Germany’s China Nightmare” was written by a Chinese with many years of work experience in Western media, and describes what happened at the “Voice of Germany” and other German media from the Tibet incident to the end of 2011. It is a mere description, fully reflecting the predicament of Western media coverage on China with detailed material.

《德国之声的中国梦魇》这本书是一名在西方媒体工作多年的华人记者写的,记述了西藏事件至2011年底发生在“德国之声”和其它德国媒体中的事情。它仅仅是记述,是详尽的资料,但充分反映了西方媒体在中国报导中所处的窘境。这种窘境在20世纪末就已经发生,它至今仍然持续着。

The predicament, to say it clearly, is a kind of phobia against China’s rise. After hundreds of years of habitually reporting objectively, reflected in the law, they turned away from their own law and principles to a great degree. They can’t, for example, dare to mention the good aspects of China, even when the economy is the topic. They still have to involve politics, and within positive coverage, there still needs to be some criticism. Even in international disputes, there is a natural belief that China isn’t good. When it comes to the most recent Diaoyu Islands dispute, for example, Western media mostly use the Japanese name, clearly standing on Japan’s side, leading Western readers to a tendency which is just as clear.

这种窘境,说穿了就是一种对中国崛起的恐惧症。几百年来养成了客观报导的习惯、并将之大写在各种法律里的西方媒体,在很大程度上背离了自己的法律和原则:不能、不敢说中国好的方面,即使是谈经济,也要牵扯政治,在好的报导中也要有所批评。甚至在国际争端中,也自然而然地认定中国不好。比如在最近的钓鱼岛争端中,西方媒体大多用日本的岛名,明显地站在日本一边,导致西方读者也有了明显的倾向。

Within this “China isn’t good” discourse, within this envelope of China “phobia”, also on German television, radio, internet and in- and outside an international broadcaster’s television station – “Voice of Germany” -, a series of scandals occurred. In August 2008, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, this station’s Chinese-department’s Zhang Danhong said on German television that China’s overcoming of poverty was a great achievement. It triggered attacks from overseas dissidents and German media. This grew into attacks on the comparatively objective and comprehensive coverage of the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department. Some overseas dissidents, quickly and at will, fabricated a deceptive representation of [Deutsche Welle] Chinese broadcasting and online departments that were “China-friendly” and “CCP-friendly”. Some German journalists and politicians blindly believed those fabrications without checking the accusations. The so-called “German Author Circle of the German Federal Republic” even suggested that the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department should be purged and be comprehensively supervised in its China coverage. A surge of open letters to Germany’s federal parliament emerged, and in a wave of at least ten open letters and several tens of German media reports, the German parliament also became involved. Chinese media surged, too.

在这种中国“不好论”、中国“恐惧症”笼罩下,于是在德国集电视、广播、互联网于一体的国际广播电视台“德国之声”内外,发生了一系列的丑闻。在2008年8月,北京奥运开幕之际,该台中国部张丹红在德国电视台说中国除贫是重大贡献,引起了海外异议人士和德国媒体的围攻。继而扩散到对在西藏事件等方面相对客观地、比较全面地展开报导的德国之声中文部的攻击。一些海外异议人士凭空捏造、随意组合,创建了一个“亲华亲共”的德国之声中文广播和网络部报导的假象。一些德国记者、政治家盲目地相信这些捏造,而根本不去核对那些指责。所谓的“联邦德国作家圈”甚至提出要清洗德国之声中文编辑部、全面监督对华报导。一轮向德国联邦议院发公开信的热潮涌现了,在先后至少十封公开信和几十个德国媒体的报导热潮中,德国联邦议院也插手了。中国媒体在这个热潮冲击下同样汹涌澎湃。

The final examination report shows that the allegations against the Voice of Germany’s Chinese editorial department were completely slanderous. Originally, this matter should have been over by then. But the Voice of Germany’s leaders got trapped in fear, and went into disarray. From early in 2009, this international media unit implemented” the original demands which had been comprehensively repudiated [by the investigation]: it invited people “immune against the CCP” to examine the reporting – in violation of Germany’s constitution, and editors who adhered to the legal principles of objective coverage were put under pressure, up to the expulsion of four editors and reporters.

最后的审核结论表明,对德国之声中文编辑部的指责纯属子虚乌有。本来,这件事情应该过去了。可是,德国之声领导完全陷入了恐慌之中,在胜利中自乱阵脚。从2009年开始,这个国际媒体全面“执行”了本来被它全面推翻了的对方的要求:请“免疫”于共产主义的台外人员对中文节目展开违反德国宪法的新闻检查;对坚持德国法律规定的客观报导原则的编辑、记者实施打压,直到把四名编辑、记者开除出去。

In October 2012, “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” was published by August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag [sic]. It describes, with detailed material, revealing many creepy scandals. Some examples as follows.

2012年10月出版的德语版《德国之声的中国梦魇》(China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle,出版社:August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag)一书以详实的资料,记述了整个过程,揭露了许多令人毛骨悚然的丑闻。在此举例如下。

I’m not going to translate April Media’s list line by line, but only mention them very roughly here -

  • the way dissidents were believed and the inclination to believe them because of their suitable China-isn’t-good narrative;
  • how the Deutsche Welle management abandoned “the fruits of victory” (胜利果实);
  • how – in the eyes of many listeners and readers, April Media adds -, the station became a voice of dissidents and Falun Gong, etc., thus abandoning Deutsche Welle director’s assertion that they were neither CCP’s, nor of the dissidents’ mouthpiece;
  • the “monitor” (Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph), with an emphasis on how he allegedly objected to the term “mainland”, and demanding the use of “China” and “Taiwan” instead;
  • inviting a “Tibetan separatist” to comment on the Yushu earthquake, with politicized remarks not related to the earthquake, or referring to Xinjiang as East Turkestan;
  • violating the principles of objective journalism, and the German constitution;
  • “Lying in court”;
  • Falun-Gong guidance on German media and Deutsche Welle, beginning with the Zhang-Danhong affair.

After describing several episodes from “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”, April Media returns to the issue of “sinophobia”. While the book can’t solve problems, it can describe otherwise rather hidden issues, the reviewer suggests. And it “can also help Chinese people to understand the West and Germany more comprehensively”.

-

Remarks

First of all, April Media’s review should not be held against Li Qi, in my view – just as the way Chinese media presented Zhang Danhong – a German citizen, btw, according to Li – as a Chinese-motherland-superhero four years ago, should not be held against Zhang.  Li Qi wrote the book, not April Media’s review of it.

The review leaves an important episode out – one that Li himself addresses in his book: Zhang Danhong’s “interview with herself”, i. e. an intern or – rather, according to Li – a newbie in the department asking the questions. Li would go along with the review in that the Deutsche Welle management “abandoned the fruits of victory” without need – but he does see Zhang’s “interview” as the turning point. The following is based on my understanding of Li Qi’s chapter on the issue. I’ll base the following paragraphs on my understanding of that chapter.

Zhang had a dispute with He Qinglian, a dissident living in America. He Qinglian had alleged that Zhang had asked her, in 2005, to write no comments commentaries for the department anymore, but rather to report about China. He Qinglian considered that a request to terminate her assignment with Deutsche Welle, because reporting about China was difficult when living in the U.S.. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, He alleged that the Chinese propaganda department had been involved in the decision.

Li Qi felt that he could relate to the anger of the department managers. After all, they had been targeted by He Qinglian.

But I felt that such remarks weren’t worth a debate. What mattered was that the absurd accusations that we had been red infiltrators had been staved off.

The online department manager suggested to care about more important things when Zhang approached her, asking if an online colleague could do the interview with her. Zhang did it anyway. The release online then apparently followed a misunderstanding about “intranet” and “internet”.

Here is the crux – in my view: the Deutsche Welle management certainly felt that they had done their best to defend the integrity of the Chinese department. They had faced criticism, public uproars, inquiries from politics, and had seen it all through. And there came some small-minded editors with a “the-winner-takes-it-all” mentality who wouldn’t want to spare a single point, when it came to the “enemy”.  To be clear – I’m speculating about the mindsets here.

“Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” leaves the impression that Li doesn’t want to criticize the incident – but that he doesn’t want to condone it either.

Probably, nobody would have had to hit the roof (but Deutsche Welle’s top managers did, according to Li’s book). And the “interview incident” did pose questions about the department’s state of the art – , if nothing else had done that previously.

But the irony is that all this apparently turned into a political purge after all, rather than into continuous improvement (there’s no place where improvement would be unwarranted, is there?). And Li Qi and his colleagues were hardly to blame for the “interview incident”. According to Li, neither of the four online editors sacked in 2010/2011 was really responsible for the “self-interview”.

But April Media’s information – much of it apparently accurate, some of it half-true, and some of it – apparently – a wilful omission – is relevant all the same. It is relevant because it is among the media that cover the issue at all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

[Added:] Book Review: Li Qi’s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”, wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, and that’s true. You get very different comments, depending on the language you use on the internet. I’m realizing that I should have written about Deutsche Welle in German much earlier, say, since 2008. The share of Germans who read English-language blogs is probably much higher than the share of Chinese who do so – because English and German are much more similar to each other than English and Chinese, or because we are culturally closer, etc.. But that doesn’t mean that you can “reach” Germans with English.

That said, you have to find media here who would actually accept posts about Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department. Der Freitag seems to be one.

The following is what I wrote there, in the community section. Think of it as the book review in English I promised on Tuesday.

Public Diplomacy. Qi Li is a German citizen. From 2001 to 2011, he worked at Deutsche Welle. The “expiration of his contract” was a big media topic in China. In Germany, it wasn’t.

When Zhang Danhong, deputy Chinese department manager back then, made controversial remarks about China’s political issues during public appearances more than four years ago, it was well documented by the media. No wonder: 2008 was the year of the Beijing Olympics, and the “China” topic topped the agendas of many German papers and broadcasters.

Not only Zhang’s public-appearance comments, at Kölner Stadtanzeiger (a paper) or Deutschlandfunk (radio) were controversial; Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department became controversial, too. Dissidents who lived in Germany wrote a letter to the German Bundestag (federal parliament) on September 13, 2008:

We believe that Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department – broadcasting mainly in Chinese – is, to a large extent, isolated from German society and functioning like an island. This has led to a striking deviation from Deutsche Welle’s mission statement, to promote democracy and human rights and to explain Germany to the world.

It wasn’t necessarily the first letter from dissidents against an allegedly misguided editorial department. And according to Li Qi, who published his working experience with Deutsche Welle’s Chinese online department (2001 – 2011) last month, it wasn’t that much the open letter written by the dissidents that got Deutsche Welle into hot waters, but a letter by the “Deutscher Autorenkreis” (German authors’ club) ten days later. Li:

I’ve learned through the years that Germans take Germans seriously. The dissidents’ letter didn’t unsettle Deutsche Welle or the Bundestag. They might have been ignored forever, even though many of them have taken German citizenship long ago. And Zhang Danhong, too, was constantly described as “Chinese” by German media, even though that wasn’t correct, in terms of citizenship.

Back then, Deutsche Welle reacted publicly. Zhang Danhong was temporarily suspended from work at the microphone, and lost her position as the Chinese department’s deputy manager. Above all, however, the Chinese department’s work – and that of the online editors in particular – was investigated. A translation agency translated the Chinese articles back into German, and former German ARD (channel-1) correspondent and “Tagesthemen” (a newsshow) editor Ulrich Wickert reviewed them. “You are free to decide about the results. You are completely free in this regard” (Sie entscheiden, was am Ende herauskommt. Sie sind völlig frei), Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Hans Leyendecker quoted Deutsche Welle director Erik Bettermann, months later.

Wickert’s findings: accusations of slanted China coverage were completely unfounded. Wickert didn’t only criticize that politicians had picked up the accusations unchecked, but also that the director, apparently because of public and political pressure … [took personnel decisions] hastily and unjustifiedly. To be clear, this wasn’t about Zhang Danhong’s public-appearance remarks, but about the Chinese editorial department’s work.

Wickert’s report remained unpublished. Different to the original allegations, it gave no rise to headlines. It took an inquiry by the Süddeutsche Zeitung to Bettermann, who reportedly rated Wickert’s report as “very good work – great”. Bettermann didn’t want to publish the report however, so as “not to revive the China debate again”.

When reading Li’s book, you can hardly escape the feeling that Deutsche Welle has been very successful at that.

Four online editors at the China department lost their freelance assignments or jobs respectively, in 2010 and 2011. If and how far the “freelance” assignments amounted to “employee-like” contracts (arbeitnehmerähnlich Beschäftigte), and if and how far the jobs had to count as temporary (befristet) can’t be discussed here. Some of that still seems to be disputed at the labor courts – Wang Fengbo expects his case to be at the federal labor court this month.

More interestingly, Deutsche Welle – despite Wickert’s acquittal – prescribed a “monitor” for the Chinese department, Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph from Ludwigshafen. Officially, he was meant to monitor style and language/expression, and to correct those, if need be. In fact, according to an open letter by the four former employees, he rated how “close” to the CCP (or how distant to it) articles written by the editorial department were.

It was an angry letter, published by the four at the online paper “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” in April 2011, and even just for its length, it was no journalistic masterpiece. But its content is mostly authenticated. Deutsche Welle employees committee member Christian Hoppe, quoted by EPD in May 2011:

Some of the letter’s phrasing had been overboard, said Hoppe, but by and large, the events in the editorial department were described accurately (die Autoren des „offenen Briefs“ seien „mit einigen Formulierungen über das Ziel hinausgeschossen“, würden jedoch “die Vorgänge in der Redaktion insgesamt korrekt wiedergeben”).

According to Li, Wang Fengbo and another colleague met a journalist in Cologne for two hours, in the evening on April 14, 2011. The journalist, himself a freelancer, “wanted to report about it, but didn’t know what his superiors thought” (Li’s account). “In fact, we never heard about a report at his paper.”

But another source did report, as quoted above. Li:

You can’t google the report, though, because it can only be read at “epd medien”. Press agencies like dpa, ap, epd enter their stories into a database. That’s how they make them available to the media.

The book – Li categorizes it as reportage – isn’t above the story. There is bitterness in some of its chapters. But it is a schoolbook for a number of cultural and political issues: “intergration“, suspicions of extremism, public diplomacy (and how it shoots itself in the foot, “politically”), journalism, labor law, and – one begins to suspect – about the despair of superiors who have to execute an agenda which can’t be plausibly explained to any reasonable contemporary.

Not least: about how a public institution (apparently) got into the eddying of a parallel society. That “parallel society” isn’t malign in the way rednecks would have it. It isn’t malign at all. But politics faces it without a clue, unprepared and sort of trigger-happy.

While the Chinese press reported – and someties raged – extensively, there was almost no German coverage. “Is the topic of no interest for German media?”, Li asks towards the end of his book. It’s not only him – Wang Fengbo, too, finds that hard to believe.

They aren’t Eva Herman or Susan Stahnke, obviously. Deutsche Welle may only be known to those Germans who, into the 1990s, took their shortwave receivers to Mallorca, or before travelling the world. But when it is about good journalism – at a public broadcaster (or a public media platform), public interest seems likely. And if one is inclined to believe that a number of Deutsche-Welle employees were wronged, this poses questions about the usual practice in our media: how well (or badly) do we actually want to be informed?

Li Qi: “China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle”, August-von-Goethe Literaturverlag, Frankfurt a/M, 2012.
Only available in German.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

On Li Qi’s “China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle”

My review of Li Qi‘s “China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle” (Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare), in German.

A review in English will follow here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Currently Reading …

“China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle”, Frankfurt 2012, by Li Qi (or Qi Li, if you put the family name second). Can’t tell yet if it’s a great book, but the first 100 pages (of more than 400) contain a chronology of the Zhang Danhong case which goes far beyond what I’ve seen anywhere else so far.

There’s bitterness in this book – that needs to be said. It’s not written by someone who can, or wants to, put himself above the story, because it’s his story. After the first 100 pages, it’s mostly his personal story.

But it seems to be the most exhaustive account of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department yet. And given that this is about Deutsche Welle – Germany’s foreign broadcaster -, the way this story goes should be a matter of public interest. It would take a press which would be willing to look at these stories from all sides, and which would be influential enough to get answers from Deutsche Welle itself.

That’s missing so far. Once the Zhang Danhong affair was over (if it ever really was “over”), there wasn’t much media interest anymore. But I’m getting the impression that Qi Li’s book – despite the shortcomings mentioned above, or maybe even because of them – could become a great document of German-Chinese relations, in the long run.

Might write a review later on, before the end of this month. But before that, there’s still a lot to read, and to reflect upon.

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» Advocacy Journalism not the Problem, Jan 26, 2012

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